Making Church Home
Updated: Dec 15, 2019
“Under Christ’s direction, the whole body is put together perfectly.
Each part helps the other parts in its own special way.
Then the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”
Ephesians 4:16, Simplified Living Bible
One of my favorite early memories is waking up early to set up church at the local high school with my dad and a crew of men. Even before my feet could fully touch the floor of the plastic chairs we set up in the gym-turned-sanctuary, my dad realized I was old enough to help unpack nursery toys and arrange fliers on the welcome table in the lobby. So every once in awhile, if I woke up early and caught my dad on his way out the door, I could help set up and enjoy a few too many donuts with the other dozen or so volunteers (and eventually a few of their kids, too!). Over the next decade I was invited to hand out bulletins, check kids into Sunday School, play with two year olds in the nursery, clean up messes after children’s church, serve meals at church dinners, and lead VBS crews.
My involvement has everything to say about the church communities I grew up in and the encouragement of my family, and not my spiritual maturity at a young age. I was coming for the warm fuzzies of connectedness and the occasional donut. I was coming because I felt loved by their invitation- I didn’t have to wait to be a grown up to be invested in our church.
Church isn’t all about service- I had plenty of times where people were investing in me, loving on me, praying for me, coming up with silly activities for me, sharing the gospel with me. The thing that made our church feel like a second home for me was the integration that grew out of serving alongside the larger church community.
Part of our understanding of God, His Kingdom, and His values is that children are integral members of our community. Jesus tells the disciples to let the children come to him (Mark 10:14). Children are considered part of the covenant community (Genesis 17:7-13). Each member of the church brings strengths and gifts to the church community, and that includes children. When kids aren’t involved in an area of the life of the church, we all miss out.
Educational psychologist Erik Erikson states in his theory on human development that children age 6-12 are primarily focused on understanding personal competence. When children are given age-appropriate tasks and the supports to accomplish them, they begin to view themselves as competent. Giving children an opportunity to serve as members of a church community communicates love and value to a child; it’s a way we can support their development, even if they don’t know to ask for it. Abraham Maslow posits in his Hierarchy of Needs that Love/Belonging and Esteem are basic needs of every individual, just after physical needs and safety.
Most children will not ask to serve, they have to be encouraged to pursue it. Maybe your 4th grader wants to help out with the two year old class once a month, or your 5th grader wants to volunteer in an early-elementary class to sing songs and do crafts with preschool and kindergarten kids. Perhaps you serve as a greeter and your son or daughter can stand with you, giving high-fives or handing out bulletins. Not interested in relational ministry? How about helping set up for events, clean up the building, or brew coffee. If your child is feeling disconnected or bored, brainstorm with (not for!) them about where there gifts can build our church.
Originally published spring 2014.